Jun 28, 2018

B.C. polygamy sentence will be a 'wake-up call,' some experts say, but others disagree

Toronto Star
June 28, 2018

VANCOUVER—British Columbia’s former attorney general says a strong message against polygamy has been sent even though two men at the centre of a long-running legal case received only house arrest for having multiple wives.

A judge ruled earlier this week that Winston Blackmore and James Oler, former leaders of a secluded religious community in Bountiful, B.C., will each have to spend a few months at home for marrying multiple women and underage girls.

The sentence dismayed some observers, but Wally Oppal says the years in court and millions of dollars spent on the prosecution were worth it.

“This should be a wake-up call to other people in Bountiful who may be doing the same things,” said Oppal, who ordered a review into the community in 2007.

“For years, they thought they were immune to any prosecution because they relied on the principle of freedom of religion. Well, the courts have now spoken that freedom of religion is a principle in our charter, but like all freedoms, it’s not absolute.”

Justice Sheri Ann Donegan gave Blackmore a sentence of six months of house arrest and Oler three months.

Both men can only leave home for work, necessary errands and medical emergencies. They must also complete community service and probation.

The judge found Blackmore married 25 women. Nine of them were under 18 and four under 14 on their wedding days. Oler had five wives, including one that was 15 and another who had just turned 17 at the time of their marriages.

Oler, 54, was excommunicated from the church around 2012 and now lives in Alberta, while Blackmore, 61, continues to live in Bountiful and holds a prominent position there.

The sentence will do little to deter people in Bountiful or elsewhere from practising polygamy, said Stephen Kent, a University of Alberta sociology professor who has written about plural marriage.

“I don’t think it’ll have any impact at all,” he said. “For critics of polygamy, they will feel tremendous disappointment and frustration.”

He noted that Blackmore is likely to have spent millions defending himself from numerous court actions, so the case could send a message that there might be financial consequences to polygamy.

But the province’s decades-long struggle to lay charges and secure convictions also indicates that additional charges against people in the community are unlikely, he said.

“The community probably is just going to continue practising polygamy as it always has.”

The RCMP began investigating plural marriages in Bountiful in the early 1990s, but the Crown declined to lay charges due to questions about the constitutionality of the law banning polygamy.

Oppal appointed a special prosecutor in 2007, but the prosecutor also declined to lay charges. The attorney general went on to appoint two more special prosecutors until one finally laid charges in 2009. But those were tossed after a judge found the additional prosecutors had been improperly appointed.

The province filed a constitutional reference case and, in 2011, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that polygamy is inherently harmful and represents a justifiable limit on religious freedom. The decision led to Oler and Blackmore to be charged and go to trial in 2017.

It was the first trial under Canada’s polygamy law in 127 years.

“The polygamy laws are there for a purpose,” said Oppal. “(Polygamy) has a horrible effect on children. It has a horrible effect on women. It treats, in many cases, women as being chattel, property.”

There have been significant legal achievements arising from the case, said Nick Bala, a Queen’s University law professor who has written extensively about polygamy.

The constitutionality of the law has been upheld twice, he noted.

“The justice system has not done nothing. We have a lot more clarity in the law,” Bala said.

The criminal prosecutions have also had an educational and symbolic role in changing attitudes in Bountiful, especially among younger people, he suggested.

However, Blackmore and Oler “knowingly, flagrantly violated the law,” Bala said.

“They have apparently no real remorse. In those circumstances, a jail sentence would be appropriate.”


Jun 26, 2018

Chaplaincy a bulwark against cults on campus

NZ Catholic Staff -
June 27, 2018

A cult is generally accepted to mean a religion or sect considered by mainstream religions to be unorthodox or extremist, with members often living outside conventional society.
The New Zealand Herald recently ran a series of articles about the arrival of new breeds of cults that are operating in this country, concentrating particularly on those that originate in Korea and other parts of Asia.
This was picked up by Steve Worsley, a pastor in an Auckland Baptist church, who had also done considerable research into the history of these cults and the way they operate. He shared some disturbing insights into one of these Korean cults in an article in the NZ Baptist magazine. “While some find this topic fascinating,” he wrote, “the reality of dealing with it is heart-breaking.”
The difference between so-called Christian cults and traditional Christianity is that mainstream churches have an outward focus of love and service to the community and to those in need, whereas the cult looks inward, and is usually led by a charismatic leader with absolute authority. Cults’ leadership often uses coercive persuasion to deprive members of freedom of thought and activity.
One cult story that has captured media interest in recent weeks has once again concerned the community at Gloriavale in the South Island.
Gloriavale expelled one of its members, John Ready, for being in possession of some material that had been surreptitiously left by a Christian group in an effort to show give Gloriavale members a more orthodox understanding and interpretation of Scripture.
Gloriavale’s leadership determined that members could only read material that was approved by them, and so Mr Ready, who challenged them, was required to leave the property. He was not allowed to contact his wife and nine children who remained incommunicado in the Gloriavale community.
In response to questions from NZ Catholic, the Catholic chaplain to Auckland’s tertiary campuses, Fr Chris Denham, said that the principal tactic of the cults is always the same. “I have discussed this phenomenon with our ecumenical chaplain and it has been our experience that the cults take advantage of the fact that students are often separated from most of their pre-existing social and familial support structures,” he said.
“They are no longer at school, and may well have moved to a different city or country from their family. This is, of course, almost always the case with international students, who make up perhaps the largest target group for such cults.
“If they were regular attenders at religious services previously, they may not have made contact with a community in their new home. The recruiters try to make a connection using fairly basic things like Bible study groups, and then try to leverage that contact to draw the young people in further. The more they are drawn in, the more the group tries to isolate them from their other connections making members of the organisation the only contact the young people have.”
Fr Denham has fortunately not had experience of young people being personally involved, and believes that the very fact they are connected to something like the chaplaincy makes it much less likely that they will be recruited.
“Some of our students, however, have had friends who were recruited,” he continued.
“It has been quite distressing for them to see their friends being caught up in it. Happily in these few cases the young people realised something was not right and were able to get out, albeit needing support to do so,” he said.
Pastor Worsley wrote that if young people are invited to a Bible study group
that is not run by their church, they should ask three questions:
Which recognised church denomination is this Bible study group affiliated with?
What qualifications does the Bible study leader have?
Can they show a statement of faith?
“If you get fobbed off with any of these questions,” he wrote, “don’t attend.”


Jun 25, 2018

The Exiles

Britt Peterson
Washington Post
June 25, 2018

He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

Proverbs 13:24, King James Bible

One Thursday evening in 1998, when Cynthia Azat was 15, her mother picked her up from her after-school job and told her she had to leave home. Sarah Azat had become concerned that her church — Calvary Temple, in Sterling, Va. — regarded Cynthia as a bad influence on her sister, then 13. And so Sarah decided to send Cynthia away. “She wouldn’t look at me,” Cynthia recalls. “I could tell she was remorseful.” Two days later, along with most of her clothes and two hamsters that Sarah bought her as a farewell present, Cynthia moved in with her grandparents in Rockville, Md. When Cynthia’s aunt picked her up that Saturday morning, Sarah stayed inside the house, watching from a window and crying. Cynthia refused to look back.

Sarah had brought the Azats into Calvary years before. In 1986, when she and her husband were having marital problems, she reached out to family for support. A distant cousin in their tightknit community of Palestinian Americans guided Sarah’s conversion from Greek Orthodox to Pentecostal Christianity and introduced her to Calvary, where the cousin is still a church leader. Calvary seemed like a godsend, especially five years later when Sarah’s husband, John, was imprisoned on fraud charges. The church had originally belonged to the Pentecostal Assemblies of God denomination, and like most Pentecostal churches it focused on energetic demonstrations of God’s presence in daily life: music and dancing, as well as faith healings and speaking in tongues. It was a warm and family-friendly community where Sarah, who started working at Hair Cuttery when her husband went to prison, was able to get after-school care for her daughters in exchange for offering free hair appointments to other church members. “She was searching for something more meaningful and something that was going to be beneficial for her and her kids,” Cynthia told me. “And she got kind of drawn in.”

When the Azats joined Calvary in the mid-1980s, its charismatic pastor, Star Robert Scott, had been there for over a decade, starting as youth pastor at what was then the Herndon Assembly of God in 1973, according to former congregants. Within a couple of years, he became head pastor. In June 1984, the church moved to a larger building in Sterling and changed its name to Calvary Temple. Over the next two decades, Scott turned Calvary into a mini-empire. According to former members, Scott’s grasp on his congregants tightened so gradually that many who were loyal to the Assemblies of God were able to ignore it. (For this story, I spoke to two dozen former members, as well as numerous other people with connections to the church.) “Nobody just jumps right into a fire. The frog that comes from the refrigerator and is slowly warmed up — that’s different,” says Jonathan Ernst, a former pastor who left in the 1990s.

In the early 1980s, membership was at its peak of more than 1,000, former congregants estimate, and Calvary’s annual income exceeded $1 million, according to a 1983 church newsletter written by Scott. The church built a new sanctuary and school buildings. And Scott started a racecar ministry that, to this day, holds shows to display his collection of expensive cars and motorcycles. Around the same time, he led the church leadership to vote for independence from Assemblies of God, which had required that pastors tithe to the umbrella organization. Scott then rewrote the Calvary constitution to eliminate the traditional voting process and end financial transparency, according to several former members. “The church constitution was changed to meet Biblical standards,” Scott wrote in the newsletter. Congregants were still expected to tithe 10 percent of their income. But Scott began to request additional donations, for instance for a building project that never materialized.

Under Scott’s leadership, former members say, Calvary Temple also began requiring that they send their children to the church school, a non-accredited K-12 institution in a brown building attached to the church. Virginia banned corporal punishment in public schools in 1989. But at Calvary, “spare the rod and spoil the child” ruled. Cynthia said she started there in third grade and was beaten regularly by her teachers. In accounts that closely match others from more than 20 school alumni, volunteer staff and parents, Cynthia described being taken into a storage room “where there was a paddle as well as a metal folding chair,” then told to hold the chair and bend over for three to five spankings. “If you moved at all, you’d get additional spanks,” she said. By some accounts, nearly all the families at Calvary owned a paddle like this, carving it themselves or obtaining one from a member with carpentry skills. They were wooden, about two feet long, and some were drilled with holes to minimize air resistance. Former students reported being hit with the paddle as young as 6 years old and as many as nine times in succession, sometimes on the same buttock to increase the pain. Kids were hit for missing homework, talking in class, getting poor grades and, in one case reported by two former teachers’ aides, for symptoms later diagnosed as autism. I asked Cynthia, now 34, what the beatings felt like, and she was momentarily at a loss for words. “I don’t — I can’t, I can’t,” she said. “It’s degrading, I can tell you that much. … We were told we were absolutely worthless. Half the time I didn’t even know why I was being punished.”

Cynthia, who has exercise-induced asthma, also said her cheerleading coach denied her the use of her inhaler during practice and forced her to run laps even when she ended up breathless and vomiting. When Cynthia told her mother that she was being mistreated at school, Sarah spoke to Cynthia’s teachers, who, both mother and daughter recall, told Sarah that her daughter was a liar. For the most part, Sarah believed them. “I believed with all my heart this is a good church that teaches the word of God,” she told me. “I trusted them to care for my children, so I didn’t ask any questions.”

Cynthia, however, knew that what was happening to her was wrong. “I don’t think that I was ever going to fully accept being told what to do with every aspect of my life,” she said. Early on, a friend of hers was expelled from Calvary. For Cynthia, that fate started to look attractive compared with staying put. So in seventh grade she began a tacit protest by spending more time with her cousins and neighborhood friends, whom the church considered “heathens.” As her disobedience increased, so did the beatings, until she was being hit, she estimates, once a day. After two years, when she was just beginning ninth grade, Cynthia’s teachers told her she was not a Christian and couldn’t attend school.

A year later, Sarah found out that a deacon’s wife had questioned her younger daughter: How was Cynthia behaving? Was she causing trouble? Sarah knew, from the experiences of others, that these questions often preceded a church attempt to divide a family. She was conflicted, but that night she told Cynthia she had to leave. “My heart was breaking,” Sarah told me. “I didn’t want to do it, but I felt like I had no choice.”

Former members estimate that over the past 20 years, hundreds of children and adults have left Calvary Temple — either kicked out, like Cynthia, or by quitting. After someone left or was “put out” (in church jargon), family members were often expected to shun them: ignore phone calls, turn away if they met in the grocery store, treat them “as if they were dead,” as one former member put it. Because of this practice, the costs of leaving are steep. Marsha Foster says she has never met her three grandchildren because her daughter still belongs and won’t let her speak to them. Patty Simoneau says she has barely spoken to one of her sons in 10 years, since she left the church. Her two grandchildren live three miles away from her in Sterling, but she says she has met them only a few times. The four of Molly Fitch’s five children who remain at Calvary ignore the cards she leaves and the messages she writes in chalk on their driveways, Fitch says.

Despite the pain of losing family, these ex-CTers, as they call themselves, have fought back mightily. Over the past several years, they’ve publicized allegations of sexual assault by church leadership, including by Star Scott himself, to try to jump-start investigations by local, state and federal authorities. Today, they still don’t know whether the church they believe brutalized them will ever be held accountable. But whatever happens to the church, many remain scarred by their experiences. How are they and their families to heal — not just from the wounds they say that Calvary inflicted on them, but from the wounds they inflicted on one another while in the church?

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

In 2002, Calvary members learned that Scott’s wife, Janet, was dying — and in her final days, had told her husband, then 55, to remarry. Just over two weeks after her death, according to several former members who were present and a published transcript of the sermon, Scott claimed from the pulpit that the book of Leviticus forbade “high priests” to mourn; instead, they were to “take a wife in her virginity.” Toward the end of that sermon, Scott produced a candidate from the congregation: 20-year-old Greer Parker, who joined him onstage dressed demurely in a suit, her blond hair newly bobbed. They married a week later.

The event unsettled many congregants. Marsha Foster’s husband, Gary Foster, who had belonged to the church since the 1960s, called Scott’s second marriage “the beginning of the end”; the only true high priest, for Christians, is Jesus. Another turning point came in April 2008 when Scott’s son, Star Scott Jr., and his then-wife sent an explosive email to Scott Sr., and passed it around among a number of congregants. The email alleged that Scott Sr. had molested his two young nieces for years, starting when he was a youth pastor at Greenfield Assembly of God Church in Bakersfield, Calif., and continuing into his Herndon days in the early ’70s. “THEY WERE JUST INNOCENT CHILDREN AND YOU ABUSED YOUR POWER AND AUTHORITY,” the email said.

According to Scott Jr.’s former wife, the couple also reported the allegations to the Herndon Police Department. (Scott Jr. did not respond to messages sent through intermediaries seeking comment.) In a partially redacted copy of a 2008 police report that I obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request, one of the nieces, Lori Upshaw, confirmed the story. The report said that Virginia prosecutors declined to pursue the case and suggested the victim press charges in California. But she ultimately decided not to do so. Reached by phone, Upshaw, who was a Greenfield congregant, said her uncle began molesting her regularly when she was 11 and continued until she was 15. Upshaw said she forgot these events and recovered them when she was 28. (The Washington Post does not usually name alleged victims of sexual assault, but Upshaw agreed to be identified.) Sheryl Carr, a childhood friend of Upshaw’s who was also a member of Scott’s youth group at Greenfield and daughter of Greenfield’s late pastor, said in a phone interview that Upshaw did not confide in her about the abuse at the time. However, Carr said her father had forced Scott to resign as youth pastor in Bakersfield over his interactions with young girls. “He wanted to talk about sex all the time. All the time,” Carr said. “It just got to be inappropriate.”

In 2014, Andrew Lawrence, a Calvary member who later left, secretly recorded a conversation with Scott about the accusations. In the recording, which was widely circulated among former members, Scott says that his son and daughter-in-law’s email was full of “inaccuracies” and “gossip.” But he never directly denies the molestation charges. “The facts that only three people on earth really know — if those three people are reconciled and things are fine with them, then what problem is it with anyone else?” Scott says. (Upshaw told me, “I have forgiven him, but I haven’t forgotten.” Lawrence declined to comment on the recording.)

Scott did not respond to emails or phone messages seeking comment for this story. In March, I visited a Sunday service but was politely asked to leave before I could speak to him. In April, the church held a well-attended car show in its parking lot, featuring several vintage Corvettes that are part of a larger collection Scott has assembled for his Finish the Race Ministries. Christian rock played on loudspeakers and kids played cornhole as church members in neon-yellow shirts signed in visitor after visitor, collecting names, phone numbers and email addresses. When I approached Scott in the parking lot, he told me I wasn’t “welcome” on church property. I asked for comment on the sexual abuse allegations, and he snapped, “Did you just hear what I said?” and walked away. Two men wearing earpieces hovered nearby as I talked to Scott, then watched as I walked off church grounds.

As church members left, an increasing number of ex-CTers began to band together to try to regain their families and prevent others from joining. In 2008, a relative of a former member approached Michelle Boorstein, a religion reporter at The Post, leading to the first investigative story about Calvary’s operations and separation of families; at the time, former members said, about 400 people were still very active in the church. In 2015, the Loudoun Times-Mirror published a months-long investigation into multiple sexual abuse allegations against church leadership. Chassadi Thompson told the Times-Mirror that a deacon in the church molested her repeatedly starting when she was about 12. Church authorities learned of the allegations in 2003 and, in Thompson’s recollection, reported them to Child Protective Services and to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, where they were at least initially handled by a sergeant who belonged to Calvary. He has since retired, according to the sheriff’s office. The case went nowhere, and that same year, Thompson was put out at age 14 — dropped at a gas station to wait for the father she hadn’t lived with since she was 4, “with the clothes on my back and a paper bag with a couple of maxi pads,” she told me.

Around when the Times-Mirror story was published, the sheriff’s office launched a new investigation into sexual abuse charges within the church. It was a hopeful time for ex-CTers. Several created blogs to keep church abuses in the public light. A group began to protest outside the church every Sunday, confronting family members and friends on their way to services. But from the beginning, there were divides within the ex-CT community, particularly between those who tried to cut all connections and move on and those who stayed preoccupied with the church, often because they still had family on the inside. “They’re broken people,” says a former member who preferred to remain anonymous. “And broken people — when we’re all dealing with our brokenness, it’s tough. You need to be around people who aren’t broken to bring you out of that.”

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him. ... And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die.

Deuteronomy 21:18-21

In March, I drove with Molly Fitch to the homes of her four adult children who remain in Calvary. We stopped first to visit her 30-year-old daughter, who lives in a quiet Sterling neighborhood of large yards and stand-alone homes. The daughter’s house, which was being completely renovated, was little more than tarp-covered walls and a concrete foundation, with a play set and chicken coop in the back. To Fitch’s surprise, her daughter and young grandson were there, both wearing muddy galoshes, pushing a wheelbarrow across the yard. Fitch rushed over to her daughter and hugged her while I waited by the car. After a brief conversation, Fitch returned and collapsed into the driver’s seat, sitting with her back turned to me for a long moment. “This is the most talking she’s ever done,” she finally said. As we drove away, Fitch waved and blew kisses out the car window. Her daughter stood to watch us go, face impassive, hands wrapped around a shovel.

Fitch makes this pilgrimage about every six weeks or so, driving down to Sterling from her home in Upstate New York. But she hasn’t had an extended conversation with her four children who remain in Calvary since her family kicked her out on Christmas Day 2011. (Fitch’s fifth child, Gretel, was put out four or five months before her mother, and the two are still close. Fitch’s other children did not respond to calls for comment or declined to speak.) Usually during these visits, Fitch’s children are either not home or don’t respond to the doorbell. On the few occasions they have spoken to her — they don’t let her in — they ask her to repent and then tell her she must leave. (In a later encounter, one of Fitch’s sons told her to repent before calling the police on her and a Post videographer-photographer. The photographer and Fitch were served with no-trespassing orders, meaning that Fitch can stand on the sidewalk but can no longer leave notes or presents on cars or her son’s property. I called to speak with the son later; he did not return my call.)

Some Calvary members left voluntarily, despite the cost. Former member Erica packed up all her things, wrapped them in a sheet and climbed out the window of her parents’ house in the middle of the night in 2013, when she was 22. (Erica asked that only her first name be used because she fears association with Calvary would harm her employment prospects.) Since she left, Erica has spoken to her parents only once, when they tried to get her to come back to the church. The loss haunts her. “I’ve dived under things because I thought [I saw] them in public,” she says. “And then you just want to cry, and then you go home and you dream about them, and you wake up and you just cry.”

Putting people out, however, destroys families on another level. And former members say that church leaders carried out these separations in a systematic fashion. The church required regular “family meetings,” in which all members had to open up about their spiritual and moral well-being to church deacons — who then reported everything back to Scott. If Scott and other pastors decided someone was a problem, according to several former members who endured that process, that person and their family would be called in for a meeting in the back offices of Calvary Temple. Scott often quoted a Deuteronomy verse about a “stubborn and rebellious son” who was thrown out and stoned. “[We were] told, since we couldn’t actually take them to the gate and stone them to death, to treat our boys as if they were dead,” says Michelle Freeman, whose 15-year-old son left in 2006 with a group of friends.

These meetings were agonizing for spouses or parents. But everyone knew what would happen if they didn’t obey church orders, former members say. People could be put out themselves if they refused to put out a family member, while the rest of the family, including minor children, would be intimidated into staying, as Sarah Azat feared her younger daughter would be. (The younger daughter declined to comment for this story.) The choice wasn’t between harm to yourself and harm to your child or spouse, in other words. It was between harm to one family member and potential devastation of the entire family.

Marsha and Gary Foster were told to put out their son Rob in 2006, and they did — for two months. “God gave us these kids; they’re ours,” says Gary. “So we said, ‘That’s not right. We’re bringing him home.’ ” Less than a year later, the Fosters themselves were kicked out. Their other son and daughter stayed in the church and shunned them for years; the son, Michael, finally left in 2014, but the daughter remains, along with her three children.

Some who put out their family members tried to convince themselves that shunning them was the will of God. “I ran into [my sister] a few times and I treated her terribly,” Erica says of the six years after her older sister left and before she herself left. “I would either tell her she was going to hell or just completely ignore her. … I felt justified and like I was in the right.” For anyone who doubted, Scott reinforced the godliness of shunning from the pulpit, describing exiles as children of Satan. He exaggerated their struggles outside the church to instill fear in those who remained. “Bob used to say, look at the people who leave: Their lives are shipwrecked, they get divorced, they get cancer,” says Ellen Kusar, who left Calvary in 2008.

While Scott’s accounts were skewed or inaccurate, many former Calvary members did report experiencing severe disorientation after leaving, at least at first. Erica recalls: “I wanted to die for a while. I didn’t really see the point of living. I lived with this guilt that if any moment I died I’d go to hell.” Gretel Fitch, Molly’s daughter, left multiple times. “I just jumped full in,” she says. “I drank for the first time, I smoked pot for the first time. And it didn’t matter. To them … once you’ve done it, it doesn’t matter how many times you do it.”

Cynthia Azat, too, floundered at first. “As a kid, when you’re constantly being berated, you’re going to believe it,” she says. “So for years into my adulthood I have believed that I was ugly and fat and stupid and worthless.” Her grades shot up in her new public high school, but she failed two classes, coming within a whisker’s breadth of not graduating. After graduation, she took scattered classes and worked a series of retail jobs to support herself. She suffered through a binge-eating disorder and an abusive boyfriend who wrecked her credit. “I hated myself. I didn’t know why I was alive on this planet,” she says.

During this time, she was partially estranged from her family. (She stayed in touch more than most. She returned to live with them occasionally and as an adult rejoined the church for about a year and a half.) “I was really angry with [my mother],” Cynthia says. “I didn’t know they were basically threatening to take my sister away.” For Sarah Azat, this was the hardest period of her life. She had to give up custody to Cynthia’s grandparents so that Cynthia could start high school where they lived, which “killed me inside.” And after John, who left prison in 1999, started saying he wanted to leave the church, Sarah’s life at Calvary grew tense and unhappy. “If someone wanted to leave the church, they made your life hell,” she says. “We wanted to leave on good terms, but there’s no leaving. You’re not allowed to leave.”

Cynthia’s relationship with her father was particularly difficult after he returned home, something she attributes to the church’s teachings on gender roles. In Scott’s book “Adam’s Rib,” which he required all marrying couples to read, he writes, “Wives, you should be staying at home raising the children, keeping and guarding the home … to do anything less is sin.” Men were told they must dominate their wives and children, that a failure to do so represented an essential failure to be a godly man. John Azat absorbed these lessons, Cynthia felt, to a toxic degree. “With Calvary telling him the man is supposed to be the head of the household and you’re supposed to be able to have control over your wife and children — that made it very difficult for my dad to be a good dad,” she says. “I was a little more aggressive when I was at Calvary,” John admitted to me.

At times, the same conflicts that afflicted families split by the church overtook the ex-CT community as well. In 2015, on a secret Facebook page for ex-CTers, a younger ex-member began posting what multiple readers described as inflammatory messages. Some asked him to stop, others leaped to his defense, and the conflict escalated from there. “I think things have gotten a little out of hand which is easy when wounds are still raw,” one group member wrote in November 2015. “I know we are all on the same side but I think we have to remember we are all at different stages of dealing with CT.” Online conversations revealed other divides as well, including on the question of religion. Some people left Calvary and went directly into other churches, finding a great deal of healing there. For others, even just entering a church can trigger panic. And there are some — especially among the younger generation — who reject organized religion altogether. When members posted prayers and biblical verses, it upset those who were less religious.

On different sides, people saw echoes of the old Calvary mind-set. “Really, the rift came about because the loudest, most active ex-members of the FB group make their support conditional — meaning they will only truly support you if you live your life by the same ‘rules’ they do,” Erin, a participant in the group, wrote me in an email. “Sadly, they say they are better than CT, but they still act a lot like CT.” Michelle Freeman, who is an administrator of the group, says, “It was a whole back-and-forth, like you would see going on in Calvary.” Many people left the group, and it has quieted significantly. The protests also dwindled after about a year, as people grew exhausted and some moved away. And members have felt frustrated as investigations into Calvary have dragged on for three years with no result.

Last spring, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives raided an apartment belonging to the church, seizing a number of firearms and computers. But some ex-CTers have grown cynical about the investigation, speculating that Scott’s local influence and wealth have played a role in its slow progress. According to property records, the church now owns about a dozen properties that together are valued around $10 million, of which $6 million is the church’s main property.

There are ex-CTers who worry that even if some abusers are charged, it won’t be enough to take down the organization — which has after all existed in plain sight in upscale Loudoun County for decades, its alleged crimes well known to community members and police. Those with children or grandchildren still attending the church school feel a particular urgency, and some hopelessness as well. “I watched ‘Spotlight.’ Great movie. But the thing that struck me the most out of it was: What’s really gone wrong for the Catholic Church?” says the anonymous former member. “Scientology, the same thing. Of all the things that have come out, what’s really happening to them?”

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Hebrews 10:25

In 2009, Cynthia’s sister, then in her early 20s, finally left the church. Freed from their fear of losing her, Sarah and John left two months later. Both had been troubled by Scott’s application of Scripture and the sense that he was more invested in serving himself than serving God. When they first called Cynthia to let her know they were leaving Calvary, she didn’t believe them. “I just didn’t know what to think about it,” she says. “At that point I had only known my parents a certain way.”

Scott began many of his sermons with an exhortation — which some former members considered a subtle threat — not to forsake “the assembling of ourselves together.” Attempting to reassemble their family together, Sarah and John soon learned that as difficult as their relationship with Cynthia had been before they left, they faced serious challenges on the outside. That first Christmas after Sarah and John left the church, Cynthia was decorating the family’s tree when her mother asked to know everything she’d endured at Calvary. Cynthia was anxious at first, worried that her mother wasn’t ready to hear the whole story. “I didn’t know how she was going to react, and I didn’t really want to see her cry,” she says. But Sarah pressed her. “I wanted to hear exactly what happened, how she felt,” Sarah, now 55, told me. As time went on, their conversations deepened and became more comfortable. John Azat, too, labored to show Cynthia he wasn’t the domineering father he’d been inside Calvary. “We had to reinvent ourselves,” he says.

People who leave what some psychologists refer to as “high-demand” groups (defined as being exploitive, manipulative, oppressive) sometimes struggle to forgive themselves — and find forgiveness — for actions they took under the group’s influence, says psychologist Michael Langone. Younger survivors may remain angry toward the parents who brought them in and then stayed, long after it became clear that the group was hurting children.

Michelle Freeman obeyed the order to treat her son as if he were dead in 2006. Although she lasted only a week and a half, and left the church herself nearly two years later, he still has not forgiven her for bringing him up in Calvary, she says, and they haven’t spoken in four years. Her marriage also ended in divorce because her husband wanted her to leave Calvary well before she was ready. “I am the person who was responsible for bringing us [to Calvary], and for all intents and purposes, I am responsible for the demise of the family,” she told me, in tears.

Freeman and others have found the long campaign to expose wrongdoing at Calvary healing in itself — and none of the dozens of people I spoke to regretted leaving the church, despite the cost. “I feel like a completely different person,” Erica said, describing how she has found peace through a new relationship, a reunion with her older sister, and long-distance running. “I used to be so scared of the world. Now I’m like, ‘Hey, stranger!’ ” Even with the gaping absence of her son and grandchildren, Patty Simoneau said, “At the end of the day, knowing what I know to be true, I would leave again and do everything the same.” Molly Fitch believes firmly that Scott will be punished one day — before God if not before man — and that her children will return to her. “Truth crushed to the ground does rise again. It just does,” she said, in her gently passionate manner. In her research about abuse, Fitch read about Jews who survived the Holocaust. “The people who tried to cover up the atrocities they endured — they did not do well,” she said. “But the ones who openly acknowledged what they went through, that fought [anti-Semitism], that told their story … they seemed to thrive.”

On a sunny day in March, I drove to Cynthia’s parents’ house in Sterling. After returning from prison, John Azat, now 59, began a successful career as a builder, and he built the family home, a spacious and warm house with a large open kitchen, a living room that houses the family’s collections of old China and vintage typewriters, and a pool and hot tub out back. The house has a separate entrance for Sarah Azat’s private hair salon. When I visited, Cynthia, Sarah, John and Sarah’s mother, as well as Sarah’s aunt — wearing a black cape, her hair and eyebrows marinating in foamy dye — sat together eating meat and spiced rice at a long farm-style table in the kitchen. I asked Sarah how she felt after putting Cynthia out, and she said: “I know I felt guilty. I know I felt hurt. There was no peace in it. [It’s] not what I wanted to do.” Across the table, Cynthia quirked a dark eyebrow. “Kinda what you did do, there, Sarah,” she said. “Kinda what you did do.”

The Azats have come through some painful moments in the effort to reassemble their family. In 2014, Cynthia was diagnosed with a rare Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a nightmarish experience, but one that drew the family together. Both of Cynthia’s parents drove her to appointments, her mother researched her medical options, and her dad would drop off groceries when she wasn’t feeling well. “It’s definitely made me have to rely on them for things that I would normally not have,” Cynthia said as her parents both listened with pained half smiles. Today, Cynthia is cancer-free. She recently earned a master’s in social work and plans to become a therapist working with, among other traumatized groups, cult-abuse survivors. Last year, to celebrate Cynthia’s graduation from her master’s program, the Azats took a family vacation to Las Vegas, and a couple of years before that they went on an Alaskan cruise. They share a sarcastic sense of humor, particularly John and Cynthia, and they bantered and laughed uproariously at the kitchen table.

And yet, despite this progress, the family has had to confront some painful truths, including the possibility that Calvary may have inflicted permanent damage on their relationships. Sarah and John have apologized repeatedly to Cynthia for what happened, coming to see themselves as responsible for her suffering. “We are the culprits,” John told me. “We don’t dismiss our responsibility. Even though we were part of a victimized group, we’re not the victim. We’re part of the problem.” I asked John and Sarah how they arrived at that point of knowing they needed to ask Cynthia for forgiveness. Both described the influence of a new pastor in Sterling who helped them understand the forgiving nature of God. Sarah said she apologized to Cynthia immediately. But John told me he struggled because of his “prideful nature.” Plus, he added, in a rueful voice, “she wasn’t willing to receive it.”

“No, I wasn’t,” Cynthia said. John gave her a theatrically mournful look and said, “The offer’s still on the table.” Cynthia laughed, friendly but dry. “I’m still going to refuse it,” she said.

Britt Peterson is a writer in Washington.


Podcasts on Radicalization and Cults 


June 25, 2018

Oliver Smith, a psychology student at the University of Cambridge in the UK, has completed three interesting interviews in which he asked experts on radicalization and extremism to discuss the relationship of their specialties to cultic studies. These podcasts are available on the ICSA YouTube Channel. Interviewees were: 

Dr Florence Gaub is Deputy Director at the European Union Institute for Security Studies where she heads the Middle East and North Africa programme. In her work, she focuses on conflict, strategy and security, with particular emphasis on Iraq, Lebanon and Libya; she also works on Arab military forces more generally, conflict structures and geostrategic dimensions of the Arab region. Dr Gaub wrote a paper called, ‘The Cult of ISIS’ which was published in Survival: Global Politics and Strategy in early 2016. Oliver Smith asked Dr Gaub about the links that can be made between cults and terrorist groups, and the strategic implications of these links. 

Some useful links: 

Dr Gaub, twitter page

Dr Gaub staff profile, EUISS

'The Cult of ISIS' paper

Transcript of interview

Professor Roger Griffin is one of the world’s foremost experts on the socio-historical and ideological dynamics of fascism, as well as the relationship of various forms of fanaticism, and in particular contemporary terrorism, to Modernity. He has made a number of contributions to a humanistic understanding of terrorist radicalisation and the identification of the processes involved in de-radicalisation. Professor Griffin wrote a book called Terrorist’s Creed, published in 2012, which outlines a lot of his thinking on this subject; Oliver Smith asked him about the relevance of cults to terrorist groups, when considered as devices for achieving meaning, in particular. 

Some useful links: 

Edited transcript of this interview--edited by Prof Griffin. 

Prof Griffin staff profile, Oxford Brookes. 

'Terrorist's Creed: Fanatical violence and the human need for meaning', book. 

'The role of heroic doubling in ideologically motivated state and terrorist violence', paper. 

Dr Eolene Boyd-MacMillan is a social psychologist based in the Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge, and co-directs the ICthinking® research group. She is also Co-Founder, Co-Director of IC Thinking (Cambridge) Ltd (company no. 09128885). Since 2007, Dr Boyd-MacMillan and colleagues at the University of Cambridge have pioneered an approach to address inter-group conflicts and extremisms, which uses an empirical measure frame with predictive results. I asked Dr Boyd-MacMillan about what ICthinking® might have to say about the links between cults and extreme groups just generally, as well as finding out more about the ICthinking® project itself. 

Some useful links: 

Dr Boyd-MacMillan staff profile, Cambridge. 

ICthinking® homepage

I SEE ! Scotland In-depth: IC GRAEME HIGH (9 minutes). 

Transcript of interview

The Twelve

"The Twelve: Hosted by Shelton Brown, The Twelve is an investigation of a religious community known as The Twelve Tribes. The Twelve Tribes were established in an early 1970's Chattanooga, TN as a youth movement known as The Light Brigade. That movement quickly took off. They've since made their way of life known all over the world. But what isn't so widely known about them are some pretty startling allegations that go beyond what you may have seen in the news. Over 70 ex-members of The Twelve Tribes in three countries [and counting] have contributed to this investigation."


Jun 24, 2018

Bhopal: MIM to help school dropout, poor youth with job opportunities

Free Press India
Jun 23, 2018

Girish Verma, chairman of Maharishi Institute of Management (MIM)

Bhopal: Girish Verma, chairman of Maharishi Institute of Management (MIM) Group said, Maharishi Group of Educational Institutions wants to help increase employment opportunities for school dropout and economically backward youth. Chancellor of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Vedic Vishwavdiyalaya Verma was interacting with media here on Friday.

“Maharishi Group is collaborating with number of institutions of high repute to design and offer short term, full time under graduate and PG programmes which will allow skill development in financial market, health sector and many other fields, where opportunity for employability is very high,” said Verma.

The courses will be made available through Maharishi Institute of Management, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Vedic Vishwavidyalaya Madhya Pradesh, Maharishi University of Management and Technology Chhattisgarh and 98 Maharishi Vidya Mandir Schools country wide, informed Verma.

MIM executive vice president VSP Rao said, “ Maharishi Shiksha Sansthan Groups launching skill based, career focused, job ready courses, in MIM’s four locations –Bhopal, Indore, Benglore and Greater Noida from academic year—2018-2019. These course will be offered in collaboration with reputed institutions such as National Stock Exchange Academy, Multi Commodity Exchange, ACADGILD and AIRA Sociocare, which have developed the content after exhaustive discussions with prestigious recruiters and leading corporate houses from all over the Country.”

Col. TPS Kandra, Director Maharishi Centre for Educational Excellence Bhopal informed that at present MCEE, Bhopal offers BA, BBA, BCA, B.Com, B.Com(CA), BA BEd, BPEd, PG Diploma in Yogic Science affiliated to Barkatullah University, Bhopal and approved by NCTE/AICTE. MCA is approved by AICTE and affiliated to RGPV Bhopal.


Jun 23, 2018

Unification Church not affiliated with Sanctuary Church

Nancy Jubb

The Morning Call

June 21, 2018

The author of a recent letter to the editor may be surprised to know that the Unification Church is very alarmed by Sean Moon's breakaway group, Sanctuary Church. It should be stated for the record that we are not one in the same, nor have we ever been.

I am a second-generation practicing-Unificationist, having been born, raised and even married by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Weapons have never been a part of my religious beliefs or practices. Our faith focuses primarily on uniting people beyond religion and culture. I believe that my very existence as a half-Korean and half-American person reflects the merging of both Eastern and Western cultures.

Nancy Jubb

The writer is communications director of Family Federation USA/Unification Church.


Hey Boss, You Don’t Want Your Employees to Meditate

By Kathleen D. Vohs and Andrew C. Hafenbrack
NY Times
Dr. Vohs and Dr. Hafenbrack are behavioral scientists.
June 14, 2018

Mindfulness meditation, a Buddhism-inspired practice in which you focus your mind entirely on the current moment, has been widely embraced for its instrumental benefits — especially in the business world. Companies like Apple, Google and Nike provide meditation rooms that encourage brief sessions during the workday. Chief executives publicly extol its benefits. And no wonder: The practical payoff of mindfulness is backed by dozens of studies linking it to job satisfaction, rational thinking and emotional resilience.

But on the face of it, mindfulness might seem counterproductive in a workplace setting. A central technique of mindfulness meditation, after all, is to accept things as they are. Yet companies want their employees to be motivated. And the very notion of motivation — striving to obtain a more desirable future — implies some degree of discontentment with the present, which seems at odds with a psychological exercise that instills equanimity and a sense of calm.
To test this hunch, we recently conducted five studies, involving hundreds of people, to see whether there was a tension between mindfulness and motivation. As we report in a forthcoming article in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, we found strong evidence that meditation is demotivating.
Some of the participants in our studies were trained in a few of the most common mindfulness meditation techniques. They were instructed by a professional meditation coach to focus on their breathing or mentally scan their bodies for physical sensations, being gently reminded throughout that there was no right or wrong way to do the exercise.

Other participants were led through a different exercise. Some were encouraged to let their thoughts wander; some were instructed to read the news or write about recent activities they had done.

Then we gave everyone a task to do. The tasks were similar to everyday workplace jobs: editing business memos, entering text into a computer and so on. Before embarking on the tasks, the participants were asked about their motivation: How much effort and time would they put into the assignment? Did they feel like doing it?
Among those who had meditated, motivation levels were lower on average. Those people didn’t feel as much like working on the assignments, nor did they want to spend as much time or effort to complete them. Meditation was correlated with reduced thoughts about the future and greater feelings of calm and serenity — states seemingly not conducive to wanting to tackle a work project.

Then we tracked everyone’s actual performance on the tasks. Here we found that on average, having meditated neither benefited nor detracted from a participant’s quality of work. This was bad news for proponents of meditation in the workplace: After all, previous studies have found that meditation increases mental focus, suggesting that those in our studies who performed the mindfulness exercise should have performed better on the tasks. Their lower levels of motivation, however, seemed to cancel out that benefit.

Mindfulness is perhaps akin to a mental nap. Napping, too, is associated with feeling calm, refreshed and less harried. Then again, who wakes up from a nap eager to organize some files?

By some accounts, motivation is just as important as intelligence and personality when it comes to an individual’s success, and has the advantage of being largely under an individual’s control. Companies benefit, too, when workers are motivated: A 2013 worldwide survey by Gallup found that companies with more engaged employees outperform other companies in growth and productivity.
Management theorists and organizational leaders often think about motivation in terms of financial incentives. So as part of our research, we studied whether offering a financial bonus for outstanding performance would overcome the demotivating effect of mindfulness: It did not. While the promise of material rewards will always be a useful tool for motivating employees, it is no substitute for internal motivation.
Mindfulness might be unhelpful for dealing with difficult assignments at work, but it may be exactly what is called for in other contexts. There is no denying that mindfulness can be beneficial, bringing about calm and acceptance. Once you’ve reached a peak level of acceptance, however, you’re not going to be motivated to work harder.

Kathleen D. Vohs is a professor of marketing at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. Andrew C. Hafenbrack is an assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Católica-Lisbon School of Business and Economics.


Jun 20, 2018

She says she was 5 when another Jehovah's Witness raped her. The religion's leaders call such accounts 'false stories'

David Gambacorta

Philadelphia Inquirer 

JUNE 20, 2018

Chessa Manion says she was raped by a 14-year-old Jehovah’s Witness. She is among a growing number of ex-Witnesses speaking out about abuse and cover-ups within the organization.

Stephen Lett is 69, bald, and round-faced, with eyes that sometimes spring open to dramatic effect while he’s talking — if you can manage to get an audience with him.

For much of the last two decades, Lett has been a member of the small governing body that runs Jehovah’s Witnesses and sets the course for the denomination’s followers at more than a dozen congregations in the Philadelphia area, and thousands more around the world. Lett and the seven other men on this committee maintain quiet profiles, their voices usually absent from media coverage about the Witnesses’ widespread child sex-abuse problems.
But in the spring of 2015, Lett unexpectedly starred in a 10-minute video that was posted on the Witnesses’ website, an appearance that coincided with a spate of stories about abuse allegations and cover-ups published by Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Dressed in a dark suit, he grew animated as he urged followers to stay united by “rejecting false stories.”

“As an example, think about the apostate-driven lies and dishonesties that Jehovah’s organization is permissive toward pedophiles,” Lett said. “I mean, that is ridiculous, isn’t it? If anyone takes action against someone who would threaten our young ones, and takes action to protect our young ones, it is Jehovah’s organization.”

With just a few sentences, Lett dismissed the criticism that has been levied against the Witnesses by authorities, victims and attorneys from Australia to Pennsylvania and the United Kingdom.

A Kentucky woman named Chessa Manion argues that her own experience shows that the opposite is true — that top Witnesses leaders know the organization’s child molestation issues run deep, yet refrain from addressing them. Many other victims have made this same claim, too.

But the 29-year-old ex-Witness — who recently appeared at a rally in Harrisburg calling for lawmakers to strengthen laws protecting child sex-abuse survivors — is a little different. She has a letter from Stephen Lett to back her up.

‘Tell Mommy what happened’

Manion’s story began in the early 1990s, when her family moved from the Chicago area to Havana, a small town of about 3,600 people near the Illinois River. Her parents, Tim and Lisa, were Witnesses with a special connection to the top of the organization: Tim said he’d been recruited by Lett when he was a young man and happened to buy a Chevrolet Corvair from Lett at an old barn lot nearby.

As Manion and his wife finished moving into their new house on a leafy block lined with Victorian homes, another family of Witnesses they knew well invited their then-5-year-old daughter, Chessa, to a sleepover at their house. They promised to bring her back the next morning for service at the Kingdom Hall.

“When they showed up at the meeting,” Chessa Manion said, “I ran to my mom and put my arms around her, and wouldn’t let go. I was just staring at her. She could tell something was wrong.”

Her mother questioned her over lunch. Had she gotten in trouble at the sleepover? Yelled at, maybe, by one of the adults?
No, Chessa told her — something had happened with the other family’s then-14-year-old son.
“Tell Mommy exactly what happened,” her mother said.
At her mom’s urging, Chessa used one of her stuffed animals to show what the teen did to her. Lisa Manion believed her daughter had been raped.

The Manions took their daughter to a doctor, who confirmed their fears. “We felt paralyzed,” Lisa said. He also warned them that he was required by law to report the incident to Illinois authorities. He gave them seven days to contact police on their own.
Chessa said her dad and the father of the teen who abused her met at a Kingdom Hall, along with the boy, who after several hours of questioning confessed. The next step seemed obvious: Tim Manion needed to go to the police.
But matters like this are more complicated than they first seem within the religion. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, the Witnesses’ nonprofit corporation, warned elders in a 1989 memo, for example, to be careful about sharing confidential information that could serve as fodder for a lawsuit. Elders were instructed to never allow an officer to search a Kingdom Hall or any other area where secret records were stored. Those who received reports about child sex abuse were expected to simply contact the Watchtower’s legal department.
The religion also relied on a policy that required abuse victims to produce two eyewitnesses who could corroborate their claims before elders would consider taking action.

Lisa Manion, who is still a Witness, said some congregation members discouraged them from reporting the crime.

“There were friends of both families that felt if we would just make peace with this and each other that we wouldn’t have to go to the authorities,” she said in a recent interview. “However, we had brothers from Chicago telling us, ‘Jehovah will protect his own name. You do what you have to do to take care of your daughter.’ ”

Before the seven-day deadline, Tim Manion contacted the Mason County Sheriff’s Department and reported the attack. He was then referred to the county state’s attorney.

His daughter still doesn’t understand what happened next.

‘I was not comfortable’

Alan Tucker had prosecuted dozens of violent crimes as the Mason County State’s Attorney by the time Chessa Manion’s case reached his desk. But this one stuck with him over the ensuing decades.
Tucker, who is now an Illinois Circuit Court judge, said in a recent interview that a sheriff took a statement from the 14-year-old boy, who “admitted to having sexual intercourse with Ms. Manion. But the parents of each of the children downplayed the incident, trying to portray it as children being exploratory. They did not want to pursue charges.”

He puzzled over what he described as the Manions’ reluctance to see their daughter’s abuser prosecuted. “I know they were from a nontraditional religion,” he said. “I laid out the options as to how we could proceed and allowed them, for the most part, to direct me on how they wished to go.”

Lisa Manion disputed Tucker’s recollection. “We did not downplay anything,” she said. “We wanted to make sure that the word ‘rape’ was used as a description of what happened. … We only wanted to protect Chessa.”

She said they were advised by Tucker that their daughter might have to undergo additional examinations and testify in court against the teen. They worried the experience would traumatize her a second time. “He steered Tim out of pursuing a court case,” Lisa Manion said.

Instead of taking the case to court, Tucker said he arranged a no-contact agreement that prohibited the teen from interacting with Chessa or other small children. Both received counseling, but the teen was not required to complete a sex offender evaluation.

Had the case been successfully prosecuted, Tucker said, the teen could have ended up on probation until he was 21 and been registered as a sex offender.

Tucker said that he kept a copy of the case files in his personal records because he worried that the teen might reoffend. He dug out the files after being contacted by the Inquirer and Daily News.

“Since you called me,” he said, “it’s really bothered me.”
Manion said her parents faced pressure from Witnesses elders who urged them to “speak more delicately” and not use the word rape when discussing what she had experienced. Her father called the Watchtower’s headquarters in Brooklyn and described how she’d been abused at a sleepover, she recounted, only to be chided by an official who said, “Well, Brother Manion, do you see how you contributed to this?” (Her father did not respond to a request for comment.)
The fallout from the rape spread through the family like a disease. Shortly after her father reported the incident to police, he shared Chessa’s ordeal with her grandparents and aunts and uncles at a family gathering in the Ozarks in Missouri.

“It was a very bad night,” said Debbie Manion Ford, her aunt. “A horrible night.”

Chessa Manion hugs State Rep. Mark Rozzi (D., Berks) minutes after a rally calling for the elimination of Pennsylvania’s statutes of limitations in child sex abuse cases.

As the family absorbed the awful news, their horror turned to outrage. Chessa’s father was the only member of the family who was a Witness, and his relatives had long been skeptical of the organization.
“We were like, ‘How can you stay in this?’ ” Ford said. “Tim just said, ‘Well, the Witnesses are going to take care of this.’ But they tried to bury it.”

Not long afterward, Chessa Manion said, she found herself with her parents at the home of her abuser and his family. “I was made to hug him,” she said, “because the elders told our families that we needed to keep the peace.”

She paused to underscore the horror of the scene: “I hugged my rapist after he raped me.”
The experience took a terrible toll on the little girl, Ford said. “Chessa got really dark.”

The family tried to leave the trauma behind by moving to another congregation 1,400 miles away in Arizona.

“My parents received a lot of opposition, even though I was only 5,” Chessa said. “I was marked as ‘dirty.’ ”

She dropped out of school at 14 and became a pioneer, a Witness who spends more than 70 hours a month on missionary work. “I tried to be a good example and show that my dedication to Jehovah would not waver,” she said. “But I didn’t get any psychological counseling. My PTSD became very bad.”

As she grew older, Manion became disillusioned with the religion. She’d never gotten a GED because she’d been so influenced by Witnesses rhetoric about the end of the world being nearly at hand. She got married at 20, and when the relationship faltered, other Witnesses encouraged her to become more submissive.
Manion learned that her abuser, meanwhile, still attended services and was still around children. But he never faced criminal charges, a fact that gnawed at her.

“I had no closure or validation,” she said. “It was like the whole thing floated away.”

When told about Manion’s despair, Tucker, the judge, grew quiet. “I would feel the same way if I was her,” he said.

 ‘Wicked mistreatment’

In 2002, after Tim Manion saw a Dateline special about child abuse and Jehovah’s Witnesses, he contacted his old acquaintance Stephen Lett. Much had changed in the decades since they first met; Lett had ascended to the top of the Watchtower while Manion and his family were haunted by their memories of his daughter’s rape.
“It destroyed my brother and his wife and Chessa’s life,” Debbie Manion Ford said. “They could never get past it.”
In an anguished, five-page letter, Tim Manion told Lett about his daughter’s ordeal, and how their family was rejected by other Witnesses who had learned about it. “Most of the people we have told over the years have shunned us,” he wrote, according to a copy his daughter shared. “Some even thought and said openly to others that we must have done something to deserve this.”
Manion appealed to Lett to rethink the Witnesses’ approach to child sex-abuse allegations, including the two-witness rule. Elders were ill-equipped to handle crimes as serious as rape and sexual assault, he wrote. He argued that such matters be reported directly to law enforcement. “THIS IS NOT A RELIGIOUS SITUATION!” he wrote.
Governing body members like Lett rarely communicate directly with rank-and-file followers.

Chessa Manion on the steps of the Pennsylvania Capitol.

But on June 4, 2002, Lett wrote back. “While it was painful to read about the terrible ordeal that you and Lisa and Chessa had to go through,” he wrote, “it was so good to hear how you have stayed close to Jehovah and have endured faithfully.”
Lett referred to Chessa’s rape as a “wicked mistreatment,” but didn’t address any of the urgent points Manion raised. Lett quoted Scripture and bid his old friend well. Thirteen years later, in the 2015 video, Lett’s words were far different. He confidently denounced the abuse allegations that dogged the organization as “apostate-driven lies.”
And as recently as last year, Watchtower leaders said they would continue to rely on the two-witness rule.
Lett did not respond to an e-mailed request for comment. A Watchtower spokesperson declined to participate in an interview, but sent an overview of the organization’s policies, which state that victims and parents have a right to report sexual abuse to law enforcement. “Elders do not criticize anyone who chooses to make such a report,” it reads in part. Another line notes that someone who is guilty of child molestation can remain in a congregation if they’re repentant, but restrictions will be placed on their activities.
Chessa Manion, meanwhile, is trying to pursue the closure she felt she was long ago denied.
Illinois recently eliminated the statute of limitations for child sex abuse survivors to come forward and report crimes they say were committed against them. But the state’s previous statutes — which would apply to her 1994 case, according to a spokeswoman from the Illinois Attorney General’s Office — gave victims up until their 38th birthday to file a report with police. Manion hopes she can have a voice in what happens next, unlike when she was a little girl and an ordinary sleepover turned into a life-altering nightmare.
“People in that religion are taught to remain silent,” she said. “And that’s what needs to change.”


Jonestown and Peoples Temple

Baird, Laura. “Jonestown Carpet.”

CESNUR. “Scholars Present Request to Declassify Jonestown Documents.” 18 November 1998.

Csuk, Brian, The Jonestown, Guyana Tragedy: Primary Source Materials from the U.S. Department of State (archived at the Internet’s Wayback Machine).

“Father Cares: The Last of Jonestown,” a 1981 radio documentary, available at:

National Public Radio;

Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio National; and

Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio National (alternate listing).

A 2015 reflection by NPR producers and staff who worked on “Father Cares” appears here. The link also includes the program in streaming in download formats.

Federal Bureau of Investigation. Jonestown Freedom of Information Act files.

International Cultic Studies Association. (Search the site for “Peoples Temple” and “Jonestown” articles.)

Isaacson, Barry. “The Secret Letters of the Jonestown Death Cult.” The Spectator (U.K.), 14 May 2008.

The Jonestown Genocide.

Judge, John. The Black Hole of Guyana: The Untold Story of the Jonestown Massacre, 1985 (also here).

Kahalas, Laurie Efrein. jonestown.com Archive.

Kinsolving, Tom. Jonestown Apologists Alert Archive.

“James Warren JONES,” Murderpedia.

National Public Radio. “Remembering Jonestown,” by Melissa Block.

Norwood, Jynona. “Jonestown Memorial.”

Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. “The People’s Temple led by James Warren (Jim) Jones.”

Osherow, Neal. “An Analysis of Jonestown.”

Real Clear History (Search the site for “Jonestown” articles).

Rural People’s Party.

University of Virginia, The Religious Movements Homepage Project. “Peoples Temple (Jonestown).”

Jun 19, 2018

Hare Krishna: Comprehensive Bibliography

Aagaard, Johannes. Has ISKCON Two Faces, Update and Dialogue, 7, 3, 19-22, 1983.
Adhikary, Haripada. Hare Krishna Movement, Academic Publishers, 1995.
Ahrens, Frank. A Krishna Clan's Chants for Survival,Washington Post, F1,4, September 8, 1991.
Bailey, Chauncey. Plan for Homeless Center Divides Neighborhood, Detroit News, B5,1, June 10, 1989.
Barker, Eileen. Of Gods and men: new religious movements in the West, Macon, Ga: Mercer Univ Pr, 1983.
Beit-Hallahmi, Benjamin. International Society for Krishna Consciousness, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Active New Religions (B. Beit-Hallahmi, Editor), 1993.
Berry, Abigale. Krishna Sect Abuse, New York Times, A30,6.
Beverley, D'Silva. What Became of the Priestess of Punk?,The Guardian, 9, June 20, 1995.
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Rochford, Purvis & Eastman. New religions, mental health, and social control, Research in the social scientific study of religion: A research annual, 1, 57-82.
Rochford, E. Psychological Distress and Well-being in Hare Krishna, Psychological Reports, August 1, 1987.
Rochford, E. Recruitment Strategies, Ideology and Organization in the Hare Krishna Movement, Social Problems, P 399-410, 1982.
Rochford, E. Recruitment Strategies, Ideology and Organization in the Hare Krishna Movement, Journal:Social Problems, 29,4, 1982.
Rochford, E. Recuitment strategies, ideology and organization in the Hare Krishna movement, Of Gods and Men, Macon, GA: Mercer Univ Pr, 283-302, 1983.
Rochford, E. Religion, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 28,2, 1989.
Rochford, E. The Hare Krishna Character Type, Journal:Sociological Analysis, 50,2, 1989.
Roman, Nancy. Court Hears Hare krishna Suit Against Ban on Airport Activity, Washington Times, A5,1, March 26, 1992.
Rosen, Steven. Passage From India, Munshiram Manoharlal, 126, 1992.
Ross, Michael. Clinical Profiles of Hare Krishna Devotees,American Journal of Psychiatry, 140, P 416, 1983.
Ross, Michael. Mental health and membership in the Hare Krishnas: A case study, Australian Psychologist, 18, 128-129.
Ross, Christopher. The Hare Krishna Type, International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 2,1, 65-67, 1992.
Rothstein, Mikael. Belief Transformation, Aarhus University Press, 1996.
Rourke, Mary. Older and Wiser, LA Times, E1,1, July 1, 1996.
Saliba, John. Dialogue with ISKCON: A Roman Catholic perspective, ISKCON Communications Journal, 4,2, 1-16.
Salvini, Alessandro, Vetrano & Vidotto. Tipizzazione dell'identita e rappresentazione di se.  Una ricerca empirica. Typification of identity and self-representation: An empirical study, Bollettino di Psicologia Applicata, 193-194, 37-49.
Schaffler, Laurie. An inside look at the Hare Krishnas., The New York Times.
Schipper-Peet, G., G. van Tillo. Tussen hemel en aarde, Alphen aan den Rijn, Netherlands, 1976.
Schook, Nancy. Torts - Religious organization's acts of enticing daughter to leave home, Journal of Family Lawv.31/Univ of Louisville, 206-14, 1993.
Schulman, David. Lawsuit Puts Strain on Efland's Hare Krishna Community, The News and Observer, Raleigh, NC, B3, May 19, 1999.
Shabad, Theodore. Hare Krishnas in the USSR, New Religious Movement, 6,2, 48-49.
Sharan, Hari. Prabhupada kripa, Bhakta Kala Kshetra, 1981.
Sheridan, D. Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Horizons, 11, 219-220, 1984.
Shinn, Larry. Cult fears and the case of Krishna, Oberlin  Alumni Magazine.
Shinn, Larry. Religious freedom and the psychology of fear: the HK on trial, USA Today, P 90-93, 1990.
Shinn, Larry. The Dark Lord: Cult images and the Hare Krishnas in America, Westminster Press, 204, 1987.
Simon, Stephanie. Krishnas Find Fertile Ground in Russia,Chicago Tribune, 1,3.5, March 8, 1992.
Smith, Aidan. Reviving the Over-45s, The Scotsman, 16, April 28, 1999.
Snow, David, Zurcher, Louis.  Social networks and Social Movements: A Microstructural Approach to differential Recruitment, American Sociological Review, 45, 787-801, 1980.
Snyder, David. Krishna leader led Double Life, Times-Picayune, A1,1, March 31, 1991.
Snyder, George. Residents fear changes at Ocean Center,San Francisco Chronicle, A17,5, September 30, 1996.
Sparks, Judith. The Hare Krishna movement: an interpretation, Nashville, 1976.
Specter, Michael. Krishnas Cast Bread on Roiling Waters in Russia, Grozny Journal, A4,3, December 12, 1995.
Steve, Bard. Religions Gather to hear Message of Hope,The Idaho Statesman, B1, June 19, 1995.
Stones, Christopher. Personal religious orientation and Frankl's will-to-meaning in four religious communities,South African Journal of Psychology, 10,1(2), 50-52.
Stones, Christopher. Socioreligious semantic space in small nonconformist communities: A South African study, Small Group Behavior, 19,1, 109-116.
Stromsten, Amy. The World of Hare Krishna, Society, P 73-77, 1986.
Szimhart, Joseph. Betrayal of the Spirit: My life behind the headlines of the Hare Krishna Movement, Cultic Studies Journal, 14,2, 309-310.
Talan, Jamie. Cults: Sorting Out the Damage, Ann Arbor news, D5, September 15, 1986.
Tannenbaum, Rob. Boy George, Journal: US, 185, 76, 1985.
Trippett, Frank. Troubled karma for the Krishnas, TIME, P20, September , 1986.
Tuck, D. Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 52, 385-386, 1984.
Tucker, Ernest. Child Abuse has ended, leaders say,Chicago Sun-Times, 38, October 25, 1998.
Tucker, Ernest. Krishnas Enter Mainstream, Chicago Sun-Times, 38, October 25, 1998.
Tumminia, Diana. The sacred self: A social psychological study of religious self-identity and the case of Hare Krishna, San Diego State, 116, 1987.
Turner, Ralph, Lewis Killian. Collective behavior (3rd edition), Englewood Cliffs, NJ, xiii, 414.
Uday, Mehta. Modern Godmen in India: A sociological appraisal, Popular Prakashan - Book, 1993.
Ullman, Chana. Cognitive and emotional antecedents of religious conversion, Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 43,1, 183-192.
Ullman, Chana. Psychological well-being among converts in traditional and nontraditional religious groups, Psychiatry, 51,3, 312-322.
Vipramukhya, Swami. How to give a good class on the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness, ISKCON, 1983.
Walker, Thaai. Demons Within, Danger at Large, San Francisco Chronicle, S5,1, February 19, 1995.
Walker, Thaai. Man ruled insane in temple stabbing, San Francisco Chronicle, A22,1, December 2, 1995.
Wallas, Roy. Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Update (Rew Rel.) Mvt, 10,1, 62-63, 1986.
Weiss, Arnold, Mendosa, Richard.  Effects of Acculturation into the Hare Krishna Movement on Mental Health and Personality, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 1990.
Weiss, Arnold, Comrey, Andrew. Personality and mental health of Hare Krishnas compared with psychiatric outpatients and "normals.", Personality & Individual Differences, 8,5, 721-730.
Weiss, Arnold, Comrey, Andrew. Personality factor structure among Hare Krishnas, Educational & Psychological Measurement, 47,2, 317-328.
Weiss, Arnold, Richard Mendosa. Effects of Acculturation into the Hare Krishna movement on mental health and personality, Journal: Scientific Study of Religion, 29,2, 173, 1990.
Weiss, Arnold, Comrey, Andrew. Personality characteristics of Hare Krishnas, Journal of Personality Assessment, 51,3, 399-413.
Weiss, Arnold. Psychological Distress and Well-being in Hare Krishna, Psychological Reports, 61,1, 23-35.
Whaling, Frank. The Hindu tradition in today's world: Religion in Today's World, 128-173, 1987.
White, Gayle. Krishna Consciousness raised to 30th year of Eastern Ritual, Atlanta Constitution, C3,1, September 6, 1996.
Wilkison, David. Dark Side to Palace, Chicago Tribune, E8,1, April 21, 1994.
Willaime, JP. Sects Among the Youth, Journal: Archives de sciences sociales des religions, 28,55, 1983.
Wilson, Terry. Out of Public Eye, but keeping faith no longer Airport staples, Krishna Followers Still Worship and chant in their temples, Chicago Tribune, 2C7,5, January 24, 1997.
Witham, Larry. 2 Religious Groups Heartened by Court Ruling on Damages, Washington Times, B6,5, March 22, 1991.
Witham, Larry. Court Cases Test Balance Between Church and State, Washington Times, B6,1, April 20, 1990.
Wright, Stuart. A sociological study of defection from controversial new religious movements, Univ of Connecticut, 272, 1983.
Wright, Stuart. Dyadic Intimacy & Social Control in Three Cult Movements, Sociological Analysis, 1986.
Wright, Stuart, Piper, Elizabeth. Families and cults: Familial factors related to youth leaving or remaining in deviant religious groups, Journal of Marriage & The Family, 48,1, 15-25.
Wright, Stuart. Leaving cults: the dynamics of defection, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, 1987.
Wright, Stuart. Reconceptualizing Cult Coercion and Withdrawal: A Comparative Analysis of Divorce and Apostasy, Social Forces Journal, 125-145, 1991.
Yakos, Marvin. The roaring Lion of the East: An inside view of the Hare Krishna Movement, Word Aflame Press, 264, 1988.
Yamamoto, J. Hare Krishna, Guide to cults and new religions Downers Grove IL: Intervarsity Press, 91-102, 1983.
Yamamoto, Isamu. Hare Krishna, Guide to cults and new religions Downers Grove IL: Intervarsity Press, 91-102, 1983.
Zaidmandvir, N., Sharot, S. The Response of Israeli Society to New Religious Movements: ISKCON & Teshuvah, Journal: Scientific Study of Religion, 31,3, 279-295, 1992.
Zaidman-Dvir, Nurit. When the Deities are asleep: processes of change in the HK Temple, Thesis Temple University, 1994.
Zaretsky, Irving, Mark P. Leone. Religious Movements in Contemporary America, Princeton: Princeton Univ Pr, 1974.
A guide to cults and new religions, InterVarsity Press, 215, 1983.
A request to the media - please don't lump us in, ISKCON, Office of Public Affairs, 1980.

Items Without Authors:  

About Krishna Consciousness, Palm beach Post, E1, August 8, 1996.
Airport Proselytizers Return, with New Tack, Wall Street Journal, B1,2, March 20, 1990.
Annual Chariot Festival, The new Straits Times, 11, January 2, 1999.
Celebrating Krishna's Appearance, The New Straits Times, 17, August 30, 1997.
Charter School Applicant Rejected, St. Petersburg Times, B5, May 7, 1999.
Child Abuse at Krishna Boarding Schools is Detailed, Star-Tribune of the Twin Cities, A11, October 10, 1998.
Christian Groups Join Effort to Upset Judgment against Krishnas, Los Angeles Times, F15,4, April 21, 1990.
Correction, Washington Post, A3,6, May 30, 1990.
Court considers animal sacrifice, airport witnessing, Christianity Today, P.46-47, April 27, 1992.
Cult Admits Child Abuse, Evening Mail; Mirror, 3, October 10, 1998.
Divine passions: The social construction of emotion in India, University of CA, 312, 1990.
Don't judge all Muslims by actions of terrorist sect, Denver Post, B9,1, September 30, 1993.
Don't Let Airports Bar the First Amendment, USA Today, A12,1, March 26, 1992.
Ex-Hare Kirshna Leader Gets 20-year sentence, Associated Press, A23,1, August 29, 1996.
Ex-Hare Krishna Leader Gets 20 year sentence, New York Times, A23,1, August 29, 1996.
Former head of BIL Investment Company Refused Bail in Sydney Court, Waikato Times, 8, August 5, 1997.
Group to Hand Out Free Food, Life & Times, 2, October 17, 1997.
Hare Krishna, World Wide Web link: www.iskcon.org/hkindex/.
Hare Krishna, World Wide Web link: www.geopages.com/Tokyo/1148/.
Hare Krishna Festival Today, The New Straits Times, 2, August 28, 1997.
Hare Krishna Gets 30, New York Times, A16,4, June 21, 1991.
Hare Krishna groups in California are under intense police scrutiny following disclosures that they have been stockpiling weapons, Christianity Today, 24, 66, July , 1980.
Hare Krishna leader Tied to Murder Plot, Washington Post, D1,2, May 26, 1990.
 parents were often unaware of the abuse because they were traveling and soliciting donations for their guru's books, in airports and on the street, leaving their children in the care of HK monks and young devotees who had no training in educating children and often resented the task, the report says. Hare Krishna Reveals Abuse of Members' Children; Sect's boarding schools lacked competent staffs, Baltimore Sun, A5, October 9, 1998.
Hare Krishna Troubles, The Christian Century, P 738, August 17, 1983.
Hare Krishna World, Hare Krishna Movement, 1997.
Hare Krishna: The Complete Picture, World Wide Web link: www.shamantaka.org.
Hare Krishnas Admit Widespread Abuse of Children, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3, October 10, 1998.
Hare Krishnas Celebrate legalization in Moscow, Atlanta Constitution, E1,5, August 13, 1990.
Hare Krishnas denied charter school, Florida Times-Union, A1, May 17, 1999.
Hare Krishnas Fight Judgment, Washington Post, B6,2, March 10, 1990.
Heffron v ISKCON.
Heffron v. iskcon, Houston law Review, 325-38, 1982.
,US Supreme Court. Heffron, Secretary & manager of the Minn. State Agricultural Society Board of Managers, et al v. ISKCON, S.N., 1981.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, World Wide Web link: www.webcom.com/~ara/col/cooks/BIO/prab.html.
 International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Garland Publ, NY, 1990.
Is There Hope for the Court, Denver Post, B6,1, March 26, 1992.
US Supreme Court. ISKCON vs. Lee, S.N., 1992.
Kremlin Oks Krishnas, The Providence Journal, D7, November 7, 1998.
Krishna Consciousness and others, Institute for  Vaishnave, 1986.
Krishna Consciousness in the West, Buckness University Press, 295, 1989.
Krishna Consciousness is the Genuine Indian Culture, Gopal Krishna Das Adhikari, 198?.
Krishna Journal Details Sex Abuse, Times Union - Albany, NY, A3, October 9, 1998.
Krishnas Admit Abuse at US, India Boarding Schools, The Palm Beach Post, A3, October 9, 1998.
Krishnas Confirm Pattern of Abuse, Cincinnati Enquirer, A3, October 10, 1998.
Krishnas Confirm Students' Abuse, Florida Times-Union, A11, October 10, 1998.
Krishnas Open Temple in India, Rocky Mountain News, A28, June 20, 1995.
Krishnas Reveal Details of Child Abuse, Salt Lake Tribune, C1, October 10, 1998.
Krishnas Say Fire is Type of Harassment, Saturday State Times/Leetown, MS, BS5, July 12, 1997.
Labour of Love for spiritual Guru, The New Straits Times, 3, August 11, 1997.
Misguiding Lights?, Beacon Hill Press, 132, 1991.
More Free Meals for Poor & Needy, Main/Lifestyle, 2, October 4, 1997.
Muscovites Don't Dance in street at Krishnas' First Legal Message, Boston Globe, 7,4, August 13, 1990.
Pancaratra-Pradipa, ISKCON GBC Press, 1994.
Pardoned Life Convict Weds ISKCON bride, ITAR-TASS News Wire, November 19, 1997.
Public Forum, Journal: Creighton Law Review, 26,4, 1265, 1993.
Religious Leader Convicted of US Charges, New York Times, A6,3, March 30, 1991.
Report Details Child Abuse at Hare Krishna Schools, Las Vegas Review-Journal, A9, October 10, 1998.
Revealing the inadequacy of the public forum doctring: ISKCON v. Lee, Journal:Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, 16,1, 269, 1993.
San Francisco Festival Pays tribute to Krishna, San Francisco Chronicle, A19,1, August 12, 1996.
Sects and new religious movements, J. Rylands University Library, 240, 1988.
Society Raises Funds for Free Food Scheme, Life & Times, 2, June 20, 1995.
State Krishnas Back in Favor: Community to be accepted by religion, Charleston Daily Mail, B5, July 14, 1998.
Supreme Court Lets Stand Taxation of Krishna Literature, San Francisco Chronicle, A11,2, February 20, 1991.
Tatastha Sakti Tatttva, Giri, 1990.
The Chicago South Side Hare Krishna Community Herald, S.N.
The Hare Krishna People, ITV (ISKCON TV Network), 1974.
The Nectar of Book Distribution, BBT Sankirtan Books, 1993.
The Radha Krishna Temple in London, Apple Records.
The Science of self-realization, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1977.
The Spiritual Frontier. New Vrindavana, a country ashram of the ISKCON, ITV - Video, 1976.
US Sect Admits Abusing Children, Belfast Newsletter, 9, October 10, 1998.
US Supreme Court. Walter Lee, v ISKCON, 1992.
Vaisnavi: Women and the worship of Krishna, Motilal Banarsidass, 1996.
Vigil by Krishnas Protests Award, New York Times, A15,1, April 9, 1990.
Vouchers Aid Cults, Ad Suggest, Pinellas Times, 2, October 19, 1998.
Vyas Puja: The most blessed event, ISKCON Press, 1970.
Wholesome Meals for Vegetarians, The New Straits Times, 21, August 8, 1997.
Woman Studies How Mothers Act in Varied Cultures, The Augusta Chronicle, C13, January 21, 1999.